Lonmin shuts main furnace for month

[miningmx.com] — LONMIN, the world’s third-largest platinum producer, has shut down its key Number One furnace for 30 to 40 days because of a leak, but it is offsetting lost production by starting up two standby furnaces immediately and a third in early April.

“These furnaces have around 40% of the capacity of the Number One furnace,” Lonmin said in a statement on Tuesday. “Changes, if any, to the full year sales guidance will be given once the repair programme has been confirmed.”

Lonmin has struggled with a string of failures at its Number One furnace. Analysts say the high chrome content in its concentrate lies at the heart of its ongoing difficulties with the furnace.

The run out of matte happened earlier on Tuesday and no one was hurt.

“Our initial estimate is that a full repair of the vessel is likely to take around 30-40 days. In order to mitigate the impact on production two Pyromet furnaces have already been started up, with a third one starting in early April,” Lonmin said.

At the end of January, Lonmin reported quarterly results that showed signs of operational improvements and it maintained its full-year production forecast of 700,000 oz , with operating costs seen below the South African inflation rate.

During the quarter to end-December 2009, Lonmin completed a month-long rebuild of its Number One furnace, resulting in overall refined platinum output falling nearly 17% year-on-year at 110,768 oz “mainly as a result of metal-in-process inventory timing differences,’ the company said.

There was a two-month rebuild of the furnace from November 2008 to effect redesigns to make it more effective.